Last updated on September 2nd, 2017 at 06:28 pm
Change is an Ass Kicker
We’ve experienced those moments where we commit to change but are later hit with resistance. We forge ahead, determined as heck, and just when we feel like we get the hang of it.
We need to take a minute (sometimes months) to regain momentum because we’ve been knocked so hard. Why does this happen?
The Science of Change
Our brain makes strong connections based on repetitive thoughts and actions in order to expend less energy. When you decide to change a deeply ingrained habit the body more or less freaks out.
By diverting from an ingrained path your brain resists because it’s contrary to the connection it’s used to.
But fret not. There is a way to make lasting change.
As stated in The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, by constantly redirecting your natural tendency, to a new one, your body will eventually adapt and adjust. It’s why we can keep living and move forward after a death. Or recover from a breakup.
We are, at our core, creatures of survival.
Our brains form neural connections which become stronger and stronger with repetition.
Each thought has a physical reaction. “When we learn, we alter which genes in our neurons are ‘expressed,’ or turned on.” (220) Basically, we have more control than most of us realize. Science has proven it’s possible to change thought patterns and in effect our habits.
“When a gene is turned on, it makes a new protein that alters the structure and function of the cell. This is called the transcription function because when the gene is turned on, information about how to make these proteins is ‘transcribed’ or read from the individual gene. The transcription function is influenced by what we do and think.” (220)
Freud proposed in 1888 that “when two neurons fire simultaneously, this firing facilitates their ongoing association (223).” Your brain makes stronger neural connections to help your body become more efficient when performing repeat associations.
Later in the book the author talks about a study involving blind people learning braille. The researchers discovered the difference between short and long term memory. It took the subjects about 6 months to store the skill of reading Braille into long term memory. This study is a fascinating read and explained marvelously in the book.
Make Change Stick Around
So how do we pioneer the change we want to make in our lives?
Here are a couple quick points below:
1. Acknowledge the issue you’re having and want to change. Whether it be negative thinking, hypochondria or anger observe the ways in which these things manifest. What triggers your unwanted issue? This requires you to become more self-aware: observe, question, and wonder why you are the way you are.
2. Call yourself out when you catch yourself in the act of an unwanted habit remind yourself. “I’m about to do this or think that because of my tendency or habit. Not because it’s real or the right thing to do.”
YES, our minds betray our very health because of poor thoughts which are the basis of bad habits. Your brain is merely firing the way you trained it to.
(*Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone. There are real, chemical imbalances which cause various disorders.)
Call yourself out and be honest about why you have certain impulses. It’s powerful. Tell yourself what you will or won’t accept. Stand up to those forceful urges.
Refocusing doesn’t have to be an overwhelmingly big gesture. Starting small and having consistency helps.
Label your negative habit as a symptom of something deeper. Somewhere inside of us are false beliefs which stop us from moving forward. From breaking through the glass ceiling of obstacles to the person you want to be. The life you want to have.
What are ways to refocus? By “gardening, helping someone, working on a hobby, playing a musical instrument, listening to music, working out, or [playing a sport] (172).” If you’re driving have music or a podcast you love ready.
Get to know your false beliefs. Ask, “Why do I behave or think this way?”. It’s tough facing the truth head on. But it’s necessary.
4. Get support from a therapist, friend, or group. Most of the time we won’t notice our repetitive behavior unless someone is there as a mirror. It’s a great way to have accountability for the changes you seek. Also one of the best ways to know if you’re making progress.
Pull the Bandaid
No one will be able to save you except yourself. Procrastination NOW means later you’ll regret each second wasted not getting better sooner.
No matter your age you can do it.
Pull the band-aid now. The beginning won’t be easy but nothing worth achieving ever is.
Do the vitamin work. Bitter at first but sweet and rewarding after.
You can do this.
In conclusion, we’re not going to be our best overnight. Progress is tough yet beautiful. We are meant to bloom a little bit each day. To allow bits and pieces of ourselves to receive more sunlight. To be open just a little more today than yesterday.
Working through issues can be lonely. But I feel God’s love, concern, and tender mercies every day.
He has an unmatchable ability to work miracles in each of our lives. I’ve experienced it before and know He won’t ever stop.
I hope this resonates with you and that you love yourself more and more each day.
Focus on steps 1-4 in the ‘Make Changes Stick Around’ section
Francesca Phillips is a writer who recently moved back to States after living in Switzerland. In her previous life, she worked in the music industry for six years in Los Angeles. As an avid reader and holder of a degree in Psychology, she covers topics related to self-improvement, finding your purpose, and energy alignment. She’s a contributor for her own blog, Thought Catalog, and Medium. When she’s not inspiring creatives to be a light in the world you’ll find her traveling, hanging with her husband, and obsessing over dogs on Instagram.